Rethink, Redesign & Recreate Your Future at TEDxBerkeley 2014

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This year marks the fourth year I’ve been involved as co-curator at TEDxBerkeley, an annual TEDx event held at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley California. Now in its fifth year, this was the first year the event sold out at 1,700 and that’s not including volunteers and our team. We had an outstanding line-up of speakers and performers this year, and the talks were centered around this year’s core theme: Rethink, Redesign, Recreate.

Below is a summary of a handful of the talks, but you can find out more about the speakers on the TEDxSpeaker page and through their online videos which should be posted sometime in February or early  March 2014.

Kicking things off in the morning was well renowned entrepreneur and former Apple evangelist, Guy Kawasaki,  whose talk was entitled The Art of Innovation. Addressing entrepreneurs and wanna-be entrepreneurs, he suggests that rather than draft a mission statement, create a vision with real meaning…in other words, a mantra of why you should exist. Fedex doesn’t equate to a series of trucks that deliver packages, but Peace of Mind.  

He also pointed to the fact that so many companies try to innovate from the same growth curve rather than jump ahead of the curve which is where real innovation happens – that was Kodak’s fail btw. Change in an industry is inevitable, so don’t lag behind because you’re too set in the way you do business and too inflexible to pivot to a new vision before it’s too late.

When you start to think from a truly innovative place, you’re essentially rolling the dice.  If you have indeed jumped to the next innovation curve like Apple did, it’s okay to have some crappiness in your product suggests Guy, as long as you get it out there. No surprise coming from an Apple veteran who worked alongside Steve Jobs who is known for his infamous slogan: Real Artists Ship. Taken from Steve Levy’s book Insanely Great, which chronicles the creation of the first Mac, he writes: 

“One’s creation, quite simply, did not exist as art if it was not out there, available for consumption, doing well. Once you get the computers into people’s homes, you have penetrated their minds. At that point all the clever design decisions you made, the turns of the interface, the subtle dance of mode and modeless, the menu bars and trash cans and mouse buttons and everything else inside and outside your creation, becomes part of people’s lives, transforms their working habits, permeates their approach to their labor, and ultimately, their lives. 

But to do that, to make a difference in the world and a dent in the universe, you had to ship. You had to ship. You had to ship.”

I couldn’t agree more and have seen more ego and time spent on details that simply don’t matter get in the way over the years of getting a product to market for the long haul. The next part is also true – once you ship, you will suddenly be surprised how people start to use your product in ways you didn’t even anticipate. With Twitter, it was the same case as well as from countless other products and services which have been documented over the years. It’s up to the customer not to you since they drive your future.  

He also thinks its smart to polarize people even at the expense of major push back from corporate brands. He cited Tivo as an example because of its ability to time shift TV. Great products polarize people – don’t be afraid of polarizing people because that will upset the status quo. He also spent some time on the “pitch.” Hear hear Guy since so many social media purists argue that there no longer is a pitch, it’s just a conversation. Bottom line – both need to happen in a raw and inherently authentic way for sustainable success. It’s astonishing to me how many CEOs don’t get that.

Also in the first session, Carol Sanford started her talk with a moving statement “It took me 42 years to find an answer of how to change the world.” She moved into a dialogue about what she refers to as The Responsible Entrepreneur, which is anyone who is helping to bring a new business into the world which creates a better world. To learn more about the modern entrepreneur and the responsible ones, she dives into the Four Game Changing Archetypes.  

Of those timeless archetypes, she cites the warrior who can see things the rest of us cannot see, the clown or the court jester who thrives on bringing the connections to those who cannot see the nation, the hunter who thinks about governance and how things work.

Every Responsible Entrepreneur represents an archetype, each with a unique role to play in the entrepreneurial system. As she references in a post she wrote, “cultural anthropologists have identified all four in every healthy culture, and all four are needed to ensure the health of our own evolving social system. Each takes on change differently in search of different outcomes and all four approaches can also be found inside established organizations, among intrapreneurs who lead change.” 

Archetype 1 is the Freedom Entrerpeneur, driven by the desire to live freely and creativity, and their contribution is the intense pursuit of perfection, potential and “doing it right.” Examples include Steve Jobs and a Samurai warrior.

Archetype 2 is the “Social Entrepreneur”, who is the  foundation of change, since they play a key role in identifying and exposing gaps in traditional thinking. They often sacrifice for the greater good while seeking to mend a tear in the fabric of society others often don’t see.

Richard Branson exemplifies this archetype when he takes on outrageous endeavors to call attention to what’s missing from the global dialogue, or when he designs businesses that foster camaraderie and mutual understanding. 

Archetype 3 aka, the Reciprocity Entrepreneur supports the whole by making sure that all life gets what it needs. In other words, they work to make the systems that nourish us healthy. Reciprocity entrepreneurs see the need to work in balance with human and natural systems.

They seek to reduce the harm we do on Earth and in society. An example of this archetype is Oprah Winfrey, who in the course of her routine business has done more to evolve education—for girls in particular—than anyone in the traditional school systems. Lastly, Archetype 4 who is the Regenerative Entrepreneur. They seek to guide people and organizations as they cross boundaries and create transformations for a better world.  

What I loved most about her talk was the correlation to tribal behavior that can be garnered from each modern stereotype and why each one is valuable to the “whole” since each of the four archetypal entrepreneurs approaches growth and change differently. She notes that each is critical to revitalizing democracy and, on the larger world stage, capitalism itself. Rather than reference examples of Richard Branson and Steve Jobs, she talks about the warriors who are doing innovation in the fishing industry and in sectors and products most of us may have never heard of, but are bringing forth true consciousness in a unique way. She referes to them as the reconnection entrepreneurs.

She says to the audience: “If you’re one of those people who wants to change the world, ask yourself: Do I want to change industries by connecting us with values and can I go after a whole industry?  Can I bring conscious to the way I do business or the way I do a non-profit? Do I want to bring a sense of repriocity where we understand that we’re all part of a whole? Do I want to reconnect us to government and corporate business and individuals where we are all complete?” I loved this woman’s energy!

Connective Bahavior Expert Kare Anderson spoke on the power of mutuality and how to think about mutuality in work relationships. What do you well and with whom and when do you not?  That wonderful sweet spot of shared interests can be an inoculation and help us see things in a bizarre way,” said Kare.

For most of our lives in the business world, we’ve been advised to lead and manage others. We’ve been taught to resolve conflict, influence, negotiate and otherwise attempt to get what we want from people.Through self-improvement, we’re told we’ll become happier, smarter and more attractive, successful and self-aware. The problem with that paradigm however, she asserts, is that there is no “us” in the equation. Wouldn’t you prefer the camaraderie of smart collaboration over being lead, persuaded or managed?

What’s missing is the guidebook on how to engage with others to accomplish something more powerful together than we can alone. From within that mindset, she addressed successful methods to be successful, such as the best ways to find and recruit the right partners and groups, following a set of rules of engagement? 

Mutuality happens in the military, it happens in the operation room, it happens in boardrooms, it happens when we create big things, says Kare. There are benefits to hanging out with those who can help you think about a process differently, i.e., fast thinkers hanging out with slow thinkers. Seeking people out who are different can provide more meaning, more adventure and more assistance. The more grounded we are, the more we can see people more clearly and understand what they are saying and not saying.

Specificity creates clarity. Sometimes you need to slow down to get that clarity and to make things happen, and when you slow down, people suddenly start smiling more which improves interconnections at work and at home.

Often, when we see something that move us, we project other qualities that have no relationship to them. Think about when you get in sync, you suddenly start to walk together. Welcome to the power of mutuality. When you walk together in sync, you suddenly start working together more effectively. 

Whatever holds our attention controls our lives and what gets rewarded, gets repeated. Our behavior is contagious to the 9th degree. In a civilization where love is gone, we turn to justice. When justice doesn’t work, we turn to violence.  Violence isn’t just about shooting, it is about ignoring humanity. The anecdote is mutuality. Great great talk!

Paul Rucker is a visual artist, composer, and musician who combines media, often integrating live performance, sound, original compositions, and visual art. His work is the product of a rich interactive process, through which he investigates community impacts, human rights issues, historical research, and basic human emotions surrounding a subject.

Paul spoke about Recapitulation, his Creative Capital project that parallels slavery with the current day prison system. He did this with data visualization of maps he created of the US prison system with data from the organization Prison Policy Initiative, and a slave density map from 1860 showing slave populations in some areas of the south at over 90 percent. Even though the US population is only 5 percent, the prison population makes up 25 percent of the worlds prison population.

Whereas African Americans comprise only 12 percent of the country’s total population, they make-up 40 percent of those incarcerated. His work also examines the colossal disparity in the racial composition of the U.S. prison population and points to the vast number of African American’s whose lives have been affected by both the institution of slavery and prison system.

Paul says “Slavery worked”. From a cost benefit analysis, you can’t argue with free labor. The economic impact was tremendous. In 1860 cotton was 60 percent of US exports. The US provided 75 percent of the world’s cotton. This was an estimated 200 million dollars and this was 1860. Rucker taught about the importance of knowing history, and the amendments and how language was used and manipulated.

He paralleled lynching with current shootings by police of unarmed men and then showed an animation of a postcard from 1915 that he brought to life and composed new music for the imagery.  A powerful cello player, Paul often weaves in controversial and painful issues into his playing and his storytelling. 


Before, during and after giving us a historical glimpse into these issues through animated video, sculpture and digital prints, he fired up his cello again and again, each time breathtakingly beautiful.

A refreshingly creative approach to storytelling, his execution was a sweet mix of a rich interactive process through combines community impacts, human rights issues, historical research and basic human emotions. You’re left feeling that his work is rare, his findings are important as are the way he presents them and that he’s one helluva musician.

One of the more intensely passionate talks was by biologist Tim Shields, who is more excited about tortoises than life itself. Because the world looks at environmentalism and issues surrounding it as boring, a bit like “broccoli,” says Tim, it’s not a lot of fun. If something isn’t fun, people won’t spend time doing it.

For someone who has spent his entire life dedicated to studying and observing the life of tortoises, it’s also not a lot of fun seeing their dramatic decline, largely because of the increased numbers of ravens who are destroying them, now growing by roughly 1,000% in the West Mojave Desert. Ravens destroy desert tortoises and they are also destroying trees.  Says Tim, “it’s in parallel to the human species through its negligence of having no idea of what their impact is having on the planet.”

It’s the truth but not the whole truth. After growing tired of reporting on the tortoise decline, he began to focus all his efforts on the raven problem. In that process, he created a laser and they are now working on the notion of enabling people to fire a remote laser via email or via the Internet. The idea has a few moving parts.

Given that the world of gaming, drones and rovers are thriving, he wanted to figure out how to merge that growth with protecting a species.  Taking environmental action has to be deadly serious business is how we think of environmental action. We take it with a sense of grimness, as if we’re sacrificing some of our time for a worthy cause.

He asserts that this approach could make conservation fun. Players could monitor feeds from an array of drones over the region of Africa and report on poachers on the ground. How about games to monitor tropical forests or far less than stellar activities happening in the Amazon? 

Ecologists and biologists could identify possible candidates for the games since it’s a win for them given they’ll have thousands of people out there with eyes and ears to report back.  The gear heads and the inventors can manufacturer the devices, the game players can bring their skins and talented thumbs, the game developers can create the games and rovers and environmental organizations can help spread the word.  It’s a fascinating idea and personally, I can’t wait to follow his progress.

Randy Schekman, who teaches molecular biology and has won a Nobel Prize, addressed the issues that are throttling the ability for more scientific papers to make it into the public domain. He suggests that we are faced with a broken system for scientific reviews. Does that mean we’re in the dark ages with the review process? After all, it is the 21st century so there should be no reason to limit someone’s access through a print only model or place limitations so only a fraction of scientific papers can ever be read. 

“We need to democratize science publication so any reader of science has the ability to read a paper free of charge,” says Schekman. He encouraged people to sign a paper called DORA (Declaration of Research Assessment), which is being put forward by scholars in an effort to defeat the influence of commercial venues which negatively control the output of scholars around the world.

Beth Kanter is most known for her work around social change for social causes and her area of passion: ”Individual Social Responsibility” or ISR. She notes that individuals taking small action online can have a huge impact, whether its to help you raise money for a non-profit, someone’s sickness or cause or to metabolize grief, which she did when she lost her dad. She launched an online fundraiser to honor her father and benefits went to the surf rider foundation and an ocean conservation program.  

She encourages people to start their own ISR program. Key ways to get started: first, identify your passion and your spark, in other words, find something that you care about. Then she suggests, start talking about what you think makes the world a better place. She gives the example of a 13 year old who wanted bullying to stop at her school and started talking about it online, an effort which led to reduced bullying around the world. There are also organizations like Giving 2.0, which is designed for college students to learn about social responsibility with your peers – you can join or start an organization. Think about what you can do to make the world a better place and start speaking out about it. All it takes is a droplet into the online ocean so to speak.

Marnie Webb‘s work is also around non profit work and social responsibility as well as tools that create a ‘better good.’

Marnie-Webb (6)

Marnie wanted to recreate how we look at social issues and how we think about abundance. She says, “when we start thinking about abundance, we often don’t think we have enough, but if you start thinking about abundance differently, from a possibility place, things start to shift.”

She raises examples of organizations which have made a dramatic impact, such as D.C. Central Kitchen, whose mission is to reduce hunger with recycled food, training unemployed adults for culinary careers, serving healthy school meals, and rebuilding urban food systems through social enterprise. After they kicked things into gear, people began to realize that people in soup kitchens were eating better than kids were eating in local schools. They made a paradigm shift.

Youth Uprising helps youth kids in Alameda, in apparently one of the worse areas of the United States. Kids were crying out for a safe place to hang out and so they turned an abandoned Safeway supermarket, then a derelict building, into a a safe environment and playground where kids could go to play. Asks Marnie: “what if we look at resources that exist and figure out a way to do this together by orchestrating a way to raise enough money and resources and get it out to the right people?” For what it’s worth, I have been a fan of Marnie’s work for years.

Brenda Chapman touched my heart when I first heard her speak at TEDxUNPlaza, an event I was also involved in earlier this year. She started her career as a story artist at Walt Disney Feature Animation where she worked on films such The Little Mermaid, The Rescuers Down Under, Beauty and the Beast, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Fantasia. Chapman was the story supervisor on The Lion King (my favorite modern musical and yes, I’ve seen it a half dozen times). She is most known for her work as writer and director of the Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe winning Brave. 

Brenda is a great storyteller and this came out as she went back to childhood to share her journey with the TEDxBerkeley audience. She spoke of her professional timeline starting back to the days when stories depicting dreams of little girl that revolved around marrying a prince and living happily ever after to the more modernistic and adventurous image we see of women in BRAVE. My favorite moment (it was during rehearsal) was when she spoke of the moment she knew she’d become a feminist.

She looks at us with tender but intense eyes as she goes back to the past and recalls that defining moment, “when my father said ‘we can’t find the salt and I have 3 women in the house, I knew things had to change?”. Her father was a man who retired to the LazyBoy chair after work every day while women made dinner, cleared the table and washed the dishes. While my grandfather changed his thinking and behavior dramatically once he hit his late seventies, this way of ‘being’ for men in the 1960’s and 1970’s was very common.

When she cited that defining moment on the TEDxBerkeley stage the next day, I couldn’t help but think, “was this woman eavesdropping in my kitchen when I was a child?” The woman behind me, also in her forties, burst out laughing and one eye exchange said it all – Brenda had clearly been in her kitchen when she was growing up too.

“It’s about observation and change,” says Brenda. Observe something deep in your heart and deep in your core and do something about it.” She asks, “what is the one thing that keeps you up at night and what can you do about it?”

Her work is indicative of her childhood history and of her commitment to making a change for how women are perceived starting at an early age through the medium of children’s animated films which may end up as musicals on Broadway, which Beauty & the Beast most definitely did. I applaud you Brenda Chapman for your soul-searching work and for making the world a better place for women by depicting a different image of what we (as women) will accept and also what is possible.

Other speakers included Leslie Lang, Roberto Hernandez, Sarah Hillware, Dr. Alan Greene, Edward Miguel, Dutta Satadip and Ashley Stahl. Performers included The California Golden Overtones, Yonat Mayer, musician/clown and aerial acrobatic Nikki Borodi and Vangelis Chaniotakis and New Orleans Manifesto, a jazz group which included bandleader John Halbleib, Chloe Tucker, Manuel Constancio, Stephan Junca, Adam Grant, Hermann Lara and Sam Brown-Shaklee.

All photos: Renee Blodgett.

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